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PC-based CAD-CAM is on the move.

Acceptance of personal computer-based CAD/CAM has been explosive. With an estimated 42,000 units installed at the end of last March, more than one third of all CAD/CAM seats use PCs. This observation recently was made by Daratech Inc, a Cambridge, MA, based industrial market research firm.

The increasing speed and functional capability of these bargain-priced products, which typically sell for less than $18,000 for complete systems, is starting to hurt sales of high-end units with prices ranging from $50,000 to $120,000 per seat. Users are finding that PC systems often give 70 percent of the benefit for 20 percent of the cost of mainframe- or minicomputer-based systems.

The move to PCs is expected to accelerate when more powerful machines with better displays are introduced at the end of the year. By 1990, says Daratech, PC horsepower will have increased so much that nine of every ten CAD/CAM seats will use a personal computer.

Leading the charge is Autodesk Inc, Sausalito, CA, a software vendor that shipped its 20,000th AutoCAD.sup.TM system in May (see box for an innovative application of this software). Autodesk currently sells more than 2000 copies of their product per month. In terms of unit shipments, the firm dominates with a 44-percent share of market--29 points ahead of its nearest rival, Chessell-Robocom Corp, Newtown, PA.

Autodesk and FutureNet Corp, Canoga Park, CA, are the revenue leaders; Daratech estimates that each had 1984 sales of $10 million, a 17.8-percent slice of a $56-million pie. More than 25 companies now sell PC CAD/CAM software for applications ranging from mechanical drafting to solids modeling and finite-element analysis.

Most major CAD/CAM vendors have either entered the market or plan to announce PC-based systems before year end, notes Daratech. Many appear to be licensing private-label software with proven vendors such as Autodesk, FutureNet, T&W Systems Inc (Huntington Beach, CA), Personal CAD Systems Inc (P-CAD, Los Gatos, CA), Cascade Graphics Development (Santa Ana, CA), 4D Graphics Inc (Renton, WA), and CADAM INC (Burbank, CA).

Building revenues in this segment, however, is difficult for the established turnkey system vendors because of low unit prices. Moreover, users apparently prefer buying the hardware separately or using PCs already purchased for other purposes. The chief beneficiary of this trend is IBM, which manufactures most of the hardware. Daratech estimates that last year, users spent about $360 million for PC-based CAD/CAM, most for IBM hardware.

Micro-to-mainframe translator

In a shrewd move, Autodesk recently announced that its software now can be linked with IBM's mainframe-based CADAM. Bidirectional transfer of drawings between AutoCAD and CAD-AM is accomplished via a translator developed and supported by CADCOR, Mountain View, CA.

A significant market is expected for the translator because of IBM's lead over other turnkey CAD/CAM vendors and AutoCAD's dominant position. Bradley Bishop at CADCOR emphasizes that the translator "allows engineers to work at PC-based engineering workstations that not only run AutoCAD, but programs such as Lotus' 1-2-3 and Symphony, Ashton-Tate's dBase III, Microsoft's Word etc, which are all common to an engineering environment."

AutoCAD drawings developed at their relatively inexpensive PC workstations can be transferred to and from a centralized CADAM database on an IBM host. Translation is accomplished through a FORTRAN program that runs on an IBM 4300 series or 308X series mainframe operating under VM or MVS, and is executable from PCs linked to the mainframe. Also included is a set of menu-driven PC-based utilities. Communication between AutoCAD and CADAM is accomplished via an IBM 3270 coaxial connection or serial asynchronous ASCII transmission over a modem.

"AutoCAD on an IBM PC, XT, AT, 3270 PC series, or any of the more than 30 microcomputers we currently support can be integrated through the CADAM translator to an IBM host," remarks Mike Ford, VP at Autodesk. "In fact, with a 3270 PC/G and PC/GX, we now have a strategic solution that offers optimized communications and a high-resolution display." Price for the Translator is $10,000 per CADAM site and $200 per AutoCAD workstation.

Oriental option

IBM, noting the ground swell interest in PC-based CAD/CAM, announced MICRO CADAM last May through its Japanese affiliate. The software runs on the company's Model 5550 personal computer under PC-DOS. Unfortunately, the package is sold exclusively in the Far East. MICRO CADAM is a subset of mainframe CADAM, with essentially the same user interface.

IBM probably will market a PC AT-based product similar to MICRO CADAM in the US once higher-performance displays become available for ATs. MICRO CADAM was written by CADAM Services Co, a joint-venture subsidiary of CADAM Inc and Kawasaki Heavy Industries (Tokyo). CADAM Inc acknowledges it is working on a software product similar to MICRO CADAM for the US market.

Separately, Daratech believes IBM is readying a number of single-user CADAM systems based on PCs and powerful new general-purpose engineering workstations similar to products made by Apollo Computer Inc (Chelmsford, MA), Sun Microsystems Inc (Mountain View, CA), and others for introduction in early '86. The new workstations are rumored to be 32-bit machines in the 1-to 4-MIPS class, with graphics capabilities similar to those available on IBM Model 5080 terminals.

Competitive reactions

Moving in new directions, Intergraph soon will begin limited shipments of its 1-MIPS engineering workstation, Interpro 32. Based on the National Semiconductor 32032 32-bit microcomputer, the new $20,000 multifunction workstation can operate as a terminal on Intergraph's standard system, while providing a UNIX environment for third-party software and MS-DOS capability for IBM-compatible PC applications.

Personal Designer, from Computervision Inc, which is offered on both the IBM PC XT and PC AT, reportedly is being well received by users. Many have ordered multiple copies of this affordable product, which is priced at about $18,000 for a complete system, $6000 for software only.

A Computervision spokesman said 1985 first-quarter shipments of Personal Designer, which is marketed through distributors and the company's direct sales force, were about $1 million. Total revenues in 1985 aren't likely to exceed $10 million; however, the company believes the software will promote sales of its higher-priced lines, and plans to enhance the product with CAM capability.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Nelson Publishing
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Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:personal computer; computer-aided design - computer-aided manufacturing
Publication:Tooling & Production
Date:Oct 1, 1985
Previous Article:Factory automation in America: issues, stumbling blocks, speculations.
Next Article:Machine-tool builders cope with change.

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